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17th Jun 2023

Ireland players rally around Stephen Kenny as calls for change build

Rory Fleming

Stephen Kenny Greece

“We need to look at ourselves, no excuses”.

As Stephen Kenny’s Ireland side fell to yet another dispiriting defeat in Athens on Friday night, the sense that the Irish manager could be on the brink gathered momentum.

Former Ireland and Crystal Palace defender Damien Delaney called for Kenny to go in a series of explosive remarks on Virgin Media, with compatriot Keith Treacy in agreement.

Stephen Kenny GreeceTime appears to running out on Stephen Kenny’s Ireland reign. (Credit: Sportsfile)

Similarly, an exasperated duo of Liam Brady and Richie Sadlier looked forlorn in the RTE studio after full time, with the pair struggling to see any potential route of qualification for next summer’s European Championships in Germany.

On social media, fans vented their anger as the Boys in Green’s already abysmal competitive record of four wins in 22 games was extended by one more after another drab 90 minute display.

However, the one group seemingly left standing in Stephen Kenny’s corner remains the most important, with the Irish players leaping to the defence of their 51-year-old manager.

Ireland and Burnley midfielder Josh Cullen was adamant that it was first and foremost the fault of the players, not the Irish management team;

“We are very disappointed. We’ve got to be better than that, it’s as simple as that. We have to take account as players. We need to look at ourselves, there is no excuses we can make”.

Bemoaning the concession of a needless penalty and a preventable second half goal, Cullen added that;

“When you come away in big matches like this, the last thing you want to do is make mistakes that end in goals. We have been doing that too much recently. It’s a disappointing night and we need to reflect and go again Monday”.

Stephen Kenny GreeceIreland’s players have leapt to Kenny’s defence in the media, saying that they are to blame for the dire performance. (Credit: Sportsfile)

Another who remained steadfast in their backing of the manager was Ireland’s full back Matt Doherty, who in a scathing full time review of the refereeing performance, found time to defend Stephen Kenny.

“For me, it’s nothing to do with the manager of the coaching staff… we’ve been coached well and they’ve done everything possible for us, that’s not the problem”.

Likewise, man-of-the-match Gavin Bazunu took ownership of the defeat, remarking how the Irish coaching staff had prepped the players to the fullest extent and that the fault for the dire performance should be placed at the feet of the players;

“We’re not making any excuses for ourselves. We had a long lead in, we worked hard and we were well prepared”.

Despite the strong backing Stephen Kenny has received from his young group of players, the League of Ireland winning manager will know that failure to defeat minnows Gibraltar on Monday could spell the end of his three-year reign.

Ireland currently sit bottom of their qualification group alongside their upcoming opponents, with anything less than a win likely to go down in Irish footballing infamy as one of the nation’s poorest ever results.

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